As the best golfers in the world teed off at The Players Championship on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the sport's chain-smoking, Diet Coke-gulping, larger-than-life character (albeit a slimmed-down version) was staging a comeback overseas.
For John Daly, so much looks encouraging on the surface. He has lost 40 pounds. He's drawing large galleries. He's coming off a respectable finish of 31st at the Spanish Open, where he played last week in his first tournament of the season and won 14,709 Euros. That's almost $20,000 but scarcely enough to solve his latest woes.
Daly's most pernicious demons have been alcohol and gambling, but his most pressing problem is money. Compounding his financial troubles was the decision by Hooters, the company best known for chicken wings and scantily clad waitresses, to no longer pay Daly to carry a golf bag emblazoned with its logo.
Sara McCollum, an administrative assistant in Hooters' marketing division, confirmed this week the two parties have split but said she was unsure exactly when the breakup took place. Multiple attempts to reach Daly directly and through his agent were unsuccessful.
The loss of the lucrative Hooters deal is the most recent piece of sobering financial news for Daly, who has made millions off the course since he emerged from nowhere to capture the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana.
Last week while Daly was playing in Spain, his fourth wife, Sherrie, was forced to move out of the estranged couple's $1.6 million house in Germantown, Tenn., by order of Regions Bank, according to documents reviewed by Yahoo! Sports. The documents showed the bank foreclosed on the house after Daly stopped paying the mortgage last summer, about the same time others came looking for money.
In July 2008, the Las Vegas Hilton sought help from the district attorney in Clark County, Nev., to collect on a $385,000 debt Daly owed after he wrote the hotel's casino five bad checks, according to a letter from the Clark County District Attorney's office to Daly that was reviewed by Yahoo! Sports. The letter put Daly on notice that he had 10 days to pay up or the DA would issue a warrant for his arrest. Daly paid the debt and avoided jail.
Sherrie Daly, in an ongoing divorce proceeding, is seeking far more than the $1,481 monthly child support he has been paying her. Daly already is required to pay approximately $10,000 a month to the two wives who bore the golfer’s two other children. Sherrie is the mother of 5-year-old John Patrick Daly II.
Daly's attorney, Stevan L. Black, declined to make an official comment about the golfer's personal finances as it relates to the divorce case.
Last month, during the week of the Masters, Daly showed up outside Augusta National hocking his merchandise, claiming he had no official sponsor. At one time, Daly had his pick of sponsors. But that's when he was still riding the afterglow of his two major victories at the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open.
This decade Daly has won only one PGA Tour event, the 2004 Buick Invitational. Just as staggering is what he has lost: more than a half-dozen sponsorship deals, many squelched in part because of Daly's erratic behavior, whether it be throwing clubs, walking off the course in the middle of a round or trashing a hotel room, which he did at The Players Championship in 1997. Two weeks later, he was in alcohol rehab – his second stint.
Now, with bills mounting, with his last major sponsors bolting and with his scheduled return to the PGA Tour five weeks away, Daly is in Europe – perhaps out of sight but not out of mind.